'Lead poisoning kills 163 in Nigeria'

Abuja, Nigeria - Lead poisoning killed 163 people, including 111 children, in northern Nigeria due to illegal gold mining over the past five months, a senior health official said on Friday.

"We have recorded 163 deaths, including 111 children since January from lead poisoning in Zamfara state as a result of illegal mining," a top epidemiologist in the federal health ministry Henry Akpan said.

He said the epidemic was reported in five villages in two local government areas - Anka and Bungudu - the latter close to the state capital of Gusau.

"We are doing a lot to contain the epidemic," he said.

The ministry is getting backing from various international health agencies such as the World Health Organisation and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

"We are working with the state ministry of health to give health education and create enlightenment on the dangers of illegal mining," Akpan said.

He said health officials were also carrying out "environmental decontamination of the affected areas."

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